Thoughtful piece on the costs of the siloing of social media

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Thoughtful piece on the costs of the siloing of social media

Henry S. Thompson
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/dec/29/irans-blogfather-facebook-instagram-and-twitter-are-killing-the-web

ht
--
       Henry S. Thompson, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
      10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB, SCOTLAND -- (44) 131 650-4440
                Fax: (44) 131 650-4587, e-mail: [hidden email]
                       URL: http://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/~ht/
 [mail from me _always_ has a .sig like this -- mail without it is forged spam]

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Re: Thoughtful piece on the costs of the siloing of social media

Melvin Carvalho


On 5 January 2016 at 20:51, Henry S. Thompson <[hidden email]> wrote:
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/dec/29/irans-blogfather-facebook-instagram-and-twitter-are-killing-the-web

This is a really interesting piece, thanks for sharing.

The web does seem to have become more centralized in the last few years.  I dont know how much of this is architectural, and how much behavioral.

The architectural foundations of the web as a cross origin document (and data) space, are I think, quite strong, leading to a good degree of decentralization.  I dont know why the web may be becoming more centralized, I once heard someone say "no matter how decentralized you design a system, centralization creeps in through the back door". 

My personal preference would be to see a healthy centralized and healthy decentralized element of the web competing with each other and offering greater user choice.  But we dont seem to live in that world, right now, at least. 

One factor, imho, is that there are probably orders of magnitude more people working on centralized solutions, than on decentralized.  Also decentralized solutions are fragmented, due to design decisions that get in the way of interop (tho interop is hard at the best of times).

Im not sure what the TAG can do about this, or even how many on the TAG list still are interested in a decentralized web (tho I know TIm is).  One thing that may be valuable is guidelines to developers building decentralized solutions on how to prevent fragmentation, and how to encourage interop.  It's a difficult problem to talk about, let alone to solve!
 


ht
--
       Henry S. Thompson, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
      10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB, SCOTLAND -- (44) 131 650-4440
                Fax: (44) 131 650-4587, e-mail: [hidden email]
                       URL: http://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/~ht/
 [mail from me _always_ has a .sig like this -- mail without it is forged spam]


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Re: Thoughtful piece on the costs of the siloing of social media

Mark Nottingham-2
[ I remember seeing that article somewhere other than the Guardian quite a few months ago, but forget where; anyone? ]

Personally, I'm very interested, but the Web as currently designed and implemented heavily encourages centralisation, and changing it is likely harder than just starting something new.

Some related thoughts here:
  https://www.mnot.net/blog/2015/08/18/distributed_http

Cheers,


> On 8 Jan 2016, at 11:55 am, Melvin Carvalho <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>
>
> On 5 January 2016 at 20:51, Henry S. Thompson <[hidden email]> wrote:
> http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/dec/29/irans-blogfather-facebook-instagram-and-twitter-are-killing-the-web
>
> This is a really interesting piece, thanks for sharing.
>
> The web does seem to have become more centralized in the last few years.  I dont know how much of this is architectural, and how much behavioral.
>
> The architectural foundations of the web as a cross origin document (and data) space, are I think, quite strong, leading to a good degree of decentralization.  I dont know why the web may be becoming more centralized, I once heard someone say "no matter how decentralized you design a system, centralization creeps in through the back door".  
>
> My personal preference would be to see a healthy centralized and healthy decentralized element of the web competing with each other and offering greater user choice.  But we dont seem to live in that world, right now, at least.  
>
> One factor, imho, is that there are probably orders of magnitude more people working on centralized solutions, than on decentralized.  Also decentralized solutions are fragmented, due to design decisions that get in the way of interop (tho interop is hard at the best of times).
>
> Im not sure what the TAG can do about this, or even how many on the TAG list still are interested in a decentralized web (tho I know TIm is).  One thing that may be valuable is guidelines to developers building decentralized solutions on how to prevent fragmentation, and how to encourage interop.  It's a difficult problem to talk about, let alone to solve!
>  
>
>
> ht
> --
>        Henry S. Thompson, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
>       10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB, SCOTLAND -- (44) 131 650-4440
>                 Fax: (44) 131 650-4587, e-mail: [hidden email]
>                        URL: http://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/~ht/
>  [mail from me _always_ has a .sig like this -- mail without it is forged spam]
>
>

--
Mark Nottingham   https://www.mnot.net/


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Re: Thoughtful piece on the costs of the siloing of social media

Henry Story-4

> On 8 Jan 2016, at 04:09, Mark Nottingham <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> [ I remember seeing that article somewhere other than the Guardian quite a few months ago, but forget where; anyone? ]
>
> Personally, I'm very interested, but the Web as currently designed and implemented heavily encourages centralisation, and changing it is likely harder than just starting something new.
>
> Some related thoughts here:
>  https://www.mnot.net/blog/2015/08/18/distributed_http

Very interesting read. Thaks for the link to Brewster Kahl's talk at
the Chaos Communications Congress which helps get into this:
https://media.ccc.de/v/camp2015-6938-locking_the_web_open_call_for_a_distributed_web

Here's a way of thinking of the centralisation problem in layers that I have
found helpful recently (I'll get to Brewsters decentralised view right after).
We have three layers:

 1) IPv4/6 Information layer (+1): any machine can talk to any machine to retrieve data using IPv4/6. It's a pure p2p layer.
 2) Web of Docuemts (+1): any document can link to any other document
   Pure p2p layer
 3) Web Applications (-1): most data driven apps are not cross domain


It is at layer 3 that currently the problem is being felt, and for many people
this may seem very weird: how can you have decentralisation at lower layers, and
not higher ones? How come bytes can flow around the internet in a peer to peer
manner but data does not? How come there are so many services that exist in any
of a number of categories that don't interoperate?

For example: OuiShare, the European Sharing Economy conference, with
collaborators around Europe put together a list of tools that their
"connectors" use:

  https://trello.com/b/qPtU1EbQ/ouishare-collaboration-tools

There are 13 categories of tools, hardly any of them really interoperate. Each
time people want to work together they need to start from scratch and find a new
tool that they all agree to work on together. This has a huge cost.

So we don't just have centralisation: we also have fragmentation.
Ie. we don't have linkability in the data world. Or rather we only have
linkability at the data layer within a single service, except for a
few cases such as RSS feeds.

  We have hyper text but not hyper data.

( well actually we are working on HyperData based apps
  - High lieve concept http://hi-project.org/
  - Social Linked Data spec: https://github.com/solid/solid-spec
)

Now what Brewster Kahl wants is something more than this. They are thinking
p2p for resources so that these can be spread around and duplicated across
servers. I don't think of this as incompatible with the current web: it just
requires a new resource discovery protocol ( something like bittorent ) and new
URLs for those resources, which could in any case map to http urls.

  If you listen to Brewster's answers  to the questions in the CCC talk it
seems he is still thinking very much of a world  of documents. But actually
what he should really want, given his examples of large centralised providers,
is a distributed replicated _data_ web.  Then the client could actually follow the
data around  and build up an interface for the user's particular needs
( http://hi-project.org/ )

Given that the semantic web itself is based  on URIs and so is protocol agnostic,
there is no problem connecting data published on http, https, onion, or other protocols.
Logically this has already been dealt with by the w3c.

More intriguing is how one could have distributed versioned data where some data is
access controlled. The data would have to be encrypted, but if one gave anyone the key,
that person could give anyone else the key too - but perhaps that's not more of a problem
than when someone copies and republishes a document that is access controlled.

So in summary:
  - the problem of centralisation/fragmentation is occuring at the data layer
  - the answer to that is using linked data
  - building replicated version data protocols
     + will make linked data even more important
     + is not incompatible with the current web architecture
 
Henry Story
http://co-operating.systems/

>
> Cheers,
>
>
>> On 8 Jan 2016, at 11:55 am, Melvin Carvalho <[hidden email]> wrote:
>>
>>
>>
>> On 5 January 2016 at 20:51, Henry S. Thompson <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/dec/29/irans-blogfather-facebook-instagram-and-twitter-are-killing-the-web
>>
>> This is a really interesting piece, thanks for sharing.
>>
>> The web does seem to have become more centralized in the last few years.  I dont know how much of this is architectural, and how much behavioral.
>>
>> The architectural foundations of the web as a cross origin document (and data) space, are I think, quite strong, leading to a good degree of decentralization.  I dont know why the web may be becoming more centralized, I once heard someone say "no matter how decentralized you design a system, centralization creeps in through the back door".  
>>
>> My personal preference would be to see a healthy centralized and healthy decentralized element of the web competing with each other and offering greater user choice.  But we dont seem to live in that world, right now, at least.  
>>
>> One factor, imho, is that there are probably orders of magnitude more people working on centralized solutions, than on decentralized.  Also decentralized solutions are fragmented, due to design decisions that get in the way of interop (tho interop is hard at the best of times).
>>
>> Im not sure what the TAG can do about this, or even how many on the TAG list still are interested in a decentralized web (tho I know TIm is).  One thing that may be valuable is guidelines to developers building decentralized solutions on how to prevent fragmentation, and how to encourage interop.  It's a difficult problem to talk about, let alone to solve!
>>
>>
>>
>> ht
>> --
>>       Henry S. Thompson, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
>>      10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB, SCOTLAND -- (44) 131 650-4440
>>                Fax: (44) 131 650-4587, e-mail: [hidden email]
>>                       URL: http://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/~ht/
>> [mail from me _always_ has a .sig like this -- mail without it is forged spam]
>>
>>
>
> --
> Mark Nottingham   https://www.mnot.net/
>
>


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Re: Thoughtful piece on the costs of the siloing of social media

Philip Sheldrake
In reply to this post by Mark Nottingham-2
Thanks for namechecking the hi:project Henry, and hi everyone.

A brief introduction… I’m doing a PhD in Web and Internet Science under the supervision of Prof Wendy Hall and Dr. Kieron O'Hara, and I’m an architect of the hi:project, endorsed by the Web Science Trust. (I was invited to undertake the former on the basis of the latter.) I'm part of the SOCIAM programme – Universities of Oxford, Southampton and Edinburgh.

I won’t describe the hi:project here (our homepage attempts that) but will riff briefly wrt distributed architecture; a primary objective.

Jon ‘Maddog’ Hall noted that our project effectively reverses the current client server power asymmetry, effectively democratising the server (server in the browser; define browser) to the point where the distinction might well dissolve. Especially of course when combined with the likes of a linked data platform.

The HI (human interface as opposed to UI) is wholly compatible with the EFF’s Game Plan for Ending Global Mass Surveillance, specifically: "Create a global movement that encourages user-side encryption."

We’re keeping close to SoLiD since the SOCIAM all-hands at Oxford in September. As you can see from our latest blog post (by Andrei Sambra, intro by me), we’re running with this way of describing things right now … “Solid decouples the app from the data, and the hi:project decouples the interface from the app.” And this post explains why we might, just might, if we can get this thing off the ground, why we might be a trojan horse for the adoption of SoLiD – decentralization cannot be marketed.

The project encourages decentralization at the application layer, although it doesn't contribute to ameliorating the weaknesses of DNS / HTTP you describe in your post Mark (we are attracted however to distributing the hi:components IPFS style for sure). But we do have another objective at heart ...

We're cognisant that none of us aspire to redecentralize for decentralization's sake. As I noted in this guest post to the Drucker Forum ahead of the 7th Global Drucker Forum last year, "the ultimate information technology challenge is the care and maintenance of a digital infrastructure that can help us rise up to so-called super wicked problems, collectively. Given the growing appreciation of the nature of complexity and the complexity of nature, we know we’re in the domain of systems thinking and sustainability – the health and resilience of living systems including our planet, our societies, and our organisations.

Sustainability requires healthy, distributed networks, with both diversity and individual agency, to facilitate the emergence of collective intelligence. It is these qualities our digital technologies must enable and encourage."

The hi:project aims then to contribute to redecentralization, but just as importantly it's directed squarely at liberating individual agency too by helping to solve personal data & privacy, helping secure a citizen-centric Internet of Things, and transforming accessibility & digital inclusion.


Thanks for your time. And it goes without saying that I'd love to continue the conversation should the project interest you.

Cheers, Philip.

__

Philip Sheldrake, CEng MIET
Architect, the hi:project
Managing Partner, Euler Partners
Main Board Director, techUK

M. +44 (0)7715 488 759
Blog www.philipsheldrake.com
Skype psheldrake
Twitter @sheldrake


On 8 January 2016 at 11:53, Henry Story <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 8 Jan 2016, at 04:09, Mark Nottingham <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> [ I remember seeing that article somewhere other than the Guardian quite a few months ago, but forget where; anyone? ]
>
> Personally, I'm very interested, but the Web as currently designed and implemented heavily encourages centralisation, and changing it is likely harder than just starting something new.
>
> Some related thoughts here:
https://www.mnot.net/blog/2015/08/18/distributed_http

Very interesting read. Thaks for the link to Brewster Kahl's talk at
the Chaos Communications Congress which helps get into this:
https://media.ccc.de/v/camp2015-6938-locking_the_web_open_call_for_a_distributed_web

Here's a way of thinking of the centralisation problem in layers that I have
found helpful recently (I'll get to Brewsters decentralised view right after).
We have three layers:

 1) IPv4/6 Information layer (+1): any machine can talk to any machine to retrieve data using IPv4/6. It's a pure p2p layer.
 2) Web of Docuemts (+1): any document can link to any other document
   Pure p2p layer
 3) Web Applications (-1): most data driven apps are not cross domain


It is at layer 3 that currently the problem is being felt, and for many people
this may seem very weird: how can you have decentralisation at lower layers, and
not higher ones? How come bytes can flow around the internet in a peer to peer
manner but data does not? How come there are so many services that exist in any
of a number of categories that don't interoperate?

For example: OuiShare, the European Sharing Economy conference, with
collaborators around Europe put together a list of tools that their
"connectors" use:

  https://trello.com/b/qPtU1EbQ/ouishare-collaboration-tools

There are 13 categories of tools, hardly any of them really interoperate. Each
time people want to work together they need to start from scratch and find a new
tool that they all agree to work on together. This has a huge cost.

So we don't just have centralisation: we also have fragmentation.
Ie. we don't have linkability in the data world. Or rather we only have
linkability at the data layer within a single service, except for a
few cases such as RSS feeds.

  We have hyper text but not hyper data.

( well actually we are working on HyperData based apps
  - High lieve concept http://hi-project.org/
  - Social Linked Data spec: https://github.com/solid/solid-spec
)

Now what Brewster Kahl wants is something more than this. They are thinking
p2p for resources so that these can be spread around and duplicated across
servers. I don't think of this as incompatible with the current web: it just
requires a new resource discovery protocol ( something like bittorent ) and new
URLs for those resources, which could in any case map to http urls.

        If you listen to Brewster's answers  to the questions in the CCC talk it
seems he is still thinking very much of a world  of documents. But actually
what he should really want, given his examples of large centralised providers,
is a distributed replicated _data_ web.  Then the client could actually follow the
data around  and build up an interface for the user's particular needs
( http://hi-project.org/ )

Given that the semantic web itself is based  on URIs and so is protocol agnostic,
there is no problem connecting data published on http, https, onion, or other protocols.
Logically this has already been dealt with by the w3c.

More intriguing is how one could have distributed versioned data where some data is
access controlled. The data would have to be encrypted, but if one gave anyone the key,
that person could give anyone else the key too - but perhaps that's not more of a problem
than when someone copies and republishes a document that is access controlled.

So in summary:
  - the problem of centralisation/fragmentation is occuring at the data layer
  - the answer to that is using linked data
  - building replicated version data protocols
     + will make linked data even more important
     + is not incompatible with the current web architecture

Henry Story
http://co-operating.systems/

>
> Cheers,
>
>
>> On 8 Jan 2016, at 11:55 am, Melvin Carvalho <[hidden email]> wrote:
>>
>>
>>
>> On 5 January 2016 at 20:51, Henry S. Thompson <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/dec/29/irans-blogfather-facebook-instagram-and-twitter-are-killing-the-web
>>
>> This is a really interesting piece, thanks for sharing.
>>
>> The web does seem to have become more centralized in the last few years.  I dont know how much of this is architectural, and how much behavioral.
>>
>> The architectural foundations of the web as a cross origin document (and data) space, are I think, quite strong, leading to a good degree of decentralization.  I dont know why the web may be becoming more centralized, I once heard someone say "no matter how decentralized you design a system, centralization creeps in through the back door".
>>
>> My personal preference would be to see a healthy centralized and healthy decentralized element of the web competing with each other and offering greater user choice.  But we dont seem to live in that world, right now, at least.
>>
>> One factor, imho, is that there are probably orders of magnitude more people working on centralized solutions, than on decentralized.  Also decentralized solutions are fragmented, due to design decisions that get in the way of interop (tho interop is hard at the best of times).
>>
>> Im not sure what the TAG can do about this, or even how many on the TAG list still are interested in a decentralized web (tho I know TIm is).  One thing that may be valuable is guidelines to developers building decentralized solutions on how to prevent fragmentation, and how to encourage interop.  It's a difficult problem to talk about, let alone to solve!
>>
>>
>>
>> ht
>> --
>>       Henry S. Thompson, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
>>      10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB, SCOTLAND -- (44) 131 650-4440
>>                Fax: (44) 131 650-4587, e-mail: [hidden email]
>>                       URL: http://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/~ht/
>> [mail from me _always_ has a .sig like this -- mail without it is forged spam]
>>
>>
>
> --
> Mark Nottingham   https://www.mnot.net/
>
>


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RE: Thoughtful piece on the costs of the siloing of social media

Markus Lanthaler-4
In reply to this post by Mark Nottingham-2
On 8 Jan 2016 at 04:09, Mark Nottingham wrote:
> [ I remember seeing that article somewhere other than the Guardian quite a
few months ago,
> but forget where; anyone? ]

Probably here: http://bit.ly/1SGoVTq


> Personally, I'm very interested, but the Web as currently designed and
implemented heavily
> encourages centralisation, and changing it is likely harder than just
starting something new.
>
> Some related thoughts here:
>   https://www.mnot.net/blog/2015/08/18/distributed_http
> Cheers,
>
>
>> On 8 Jan 2016, at 11:55 am, Melvin Carvalho <[hidden email]>
wrote:

>>
>>
>>
>> On 5 January 2016 at 20:51, Henry S. Thompson <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/dec/29/irans-blogfather-faceb
>> ook- instagram-and-twitter-are-killing-the-web
>>
>> This is a really interesting piece, thanks for sharing.
>>
>> The web does seem to have become more centralized in the last few
>> years.  I dont know how much of this is architectural, and how much
>> behavioral.
>>
>> The architectural foundations of the web as a cross origin document (and
data) space, are
> I think, quite strong, leading to a good degree of decentralization.  I
dont know why the
> web may be becoming more centralized, I once heard someone say "no matter
how
> decentralized you design a system, centralization creeps in through the
back door".
>>
>> My personal preference would be to see a healthy centralized and healthy
decentralized
> element of the web competing with each other and offering greater user
choice.  But we
> dont seem to live in that world, right now, at least.
>>
>> One factor, imho, is that there are probably orders of magnitude more
people working on
> centralized solutions, than on decentralized.  Also decentralized
solutions are fragmented,
> due to design decisions that get in the way of interop (tho interop is
hard at the best of
> times).
>>
>> Im not sure what the TAG can do about this, or even how many on the TAG
list still are
> interested in a decentralized web (tho I know TIm is).  One thing that may
be valuable is
> guidelines to developers building decentralized solutions on how to
prevent fragmentation,
> and how to encourage interop.  It's a difficult problem to talk about, let
alone to solve!
>>
>>
>>
>> ht
>> --
>>        Henry S. Thompson, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
>>       10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB, SCOTLAND -- (44) 131
650-4440
>>                 Fax: (44) 131 650-4587, e-mail: [hidden email]
>>                        URL: http://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/~ht/
>>  [mail from me _always_ has a .sig like this -- mail without it is forged
spam]
>>
>


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Re: Thoughtful piece on the costs of the siloing of social media

Philip Sheldrake
In reply to this post by Philip Sheldrake
I received a number of private messages following my first post here, so I'm encouraged to follow up, particularly because I just stumbled upon this post by Adobe's Scott Belsky from 2014 which complements the thread started here by Henry:

"The Interface Layer: Where Design Commoditizes Tech.
A new cohort of design-driven companies are adding a layer of convenience between us and the underlying services and utilities that improve our lives. This could change everything."

"Behold the power of the “Interface Layer,” it’s not just about great design, it is about the integration of the actions that make life easier and the commoditization of the services underneath. It is more than a layer, it is a shift in the economy that is led by designers rather than cable executives, tech titans, and logistics masterminds. It is a “closed” user experience built on top of a wide open and hotly competitive ecosystem of services."

... Running Scott's perspective through the lens of the hi:project, we see three types of outcome:

1. A heterogeneous market of proprietary interface layer applications
2. Current centralizing mechanics lead to the consolidation of the interface layer under the ownership of the platform duopoly
3. The 'design' of the interface layer is open and distributed.

The first of these is Belsky's hypothesis, yet despite his enthusiasm it is unsustainable in my opinion. As tech analyst Benedict Evans points out, "it's the operating system itself that's the internet services platform, far more than the browser, and the platform is not neutral."

The first of these then will naturally cede to the second with the mediating duopoly in question being the dominant OS vendors (as the OS vendors demonstrate how 'helpful' they can be, and the de-appification continues). Facebook may make it a triopoly, but they'll be the also-rans in this respect if they manage to hang in there.

The hi:project exists because our team and our "champions" don't like outcome 2 here. We don't think it's healthy. To be honest, I'm not sure everyone I know at the OS vendors in question would be singing the praises of outcome 2 unconditionally either.

Mark, you write: "Personally, I'm very interested, but the Web as currently designed and implemented heavily encourages centralisation, and changing it is likely harder than just starting something new."

Is the web of data and SoLiD that 'something new', particularly if we can also enable unmediated (as in by a company rather than by one's own software agent) interaction and sense-making, seeding such capability with the billions of web users through the companies that already feature in their digital lives for good old-fashioned commercial imperative?

Take the global consumer packaged goods companies. I can't claim that my discussions with individuals at these companies is representative of the companies' overall position, but they've nearly always been intermediated from their billions of end-customers – firstly by the likes of Tesco and Walmart, more recently by Google, Apple and Facebook. They had a glimmer of the potential for disintermediation back in the early days of all things 'social', but to my knowledge those I've spoken with haven't been offered anything other than the hi:project to establish direct disintermediated data-oriented relationships with consumers / collaborators; a relationship where each and everyone of us has agency. I can't think of an organisation that would lose in this situation.

Best, Philip.


On 8 January 2016 at 18:04, Philip Sheldrake <[hidden email]> wrote:
Thanks for namechecking the hi:project Henry, and hi everyone.

A brief introduction… I’m doing a PhD in Web and Internet Science under the supervision of Prof Wendy Hall and Dr. Kieron O'Hara, and I’m an architect of the hi:project, endorsed by the Web Science Trust. (I was invited to undertake the former on the basis of the latter.) I'm part of the SOCIAM programme – Universities of Oxford, Southampton and Edinburgh.

I won’t describe the hi:project here (our homepage attempts that) but will riff briefly wrt distributed architecture; a primary objective.

Jon ‘Maddog’ Hall noted that our project effectively reverses the current client server power asymmetry, effectively democratising the server (server in the browser; define browser) to the point where the distinction might well dissolve. Especially of course when combined with the likes of a linked data platform.

The HI (human interface as opposed to UI) is wholly compatible with the EFF’s Game Plan for Ending Global Mass Surveillance, specifically: "Create a global movement that encourages user-side encryption."

We’re keeping close to SoLiD since the SOCIAM all-hands at Oxford in September. As you can see from our latest blog post (by Andrei Sambra, intro by me), we’re running with this way of describing things right now … “Solid decouples the app from the data, and the hi:project decouples the interface from the app.” And this post explains why we might, just might, if we can get this thing off the ground, why we might be a trojan horse for the adoption of SoLiD – decentralization cannot be marketed.

The project encourages decentralization at the application layer, although it doesn't contribute to ameliorating the weaknesses of DNS / HTTP you describe in your post Mark (we are attracted however to distributing the hi:components IPFS style for sure). But we do have another objective at heart ...

We're cognisant that none of us aspire to redecentralize for decentralization's sake. As I noted in this guest post to the Drucker Forum ahead of the 7th Global Drucker Forum last year, "the ultimate information technology challenge is the care and maintenance of a digital infrastructure that can help us rise up to so-called super wicked problems, collectively. Given the growing appreciation of the nature of complexity and the complexity of nature, we know we’re in the domain of systems thinking and sustainability – the health and resilience of living systems including our planet, our societies, and our organisations.

Sustainability requires healthy, distributed networks, with both diversity and individual agency, to facilitate the emergence of collective intelligence. It is these qualities our digital technologies must enable and encourage."

The hi:project aims then to contribute to redecentralization, but just as importantly it's directed squarely at liberating individual agency too by helping to solve personal data & privacy, helping secure a citizen-centric Internet of Things, and transforming accessibility & digital inclusion.


Thanks for your time. And it goes without saying that I'd love to continue the conversation should the project interest you.

Cheers, Philip.

__

Philip Sheldrake, CEng MIET
Architect, the hi:project
Managing Partner, Euler Partners
Main Board Director, techUK

M. <a href="tel:%2B44%20%280%297715%20488%20759" value="+447715488759" target="_blank">+44 (0)7715 488 759
Blog www.philipsheldrake.com
Skype psheldrake
Twitter @sheldrake


On 8 January 2016 at 11:53, Henry Story <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 8 Jan 2016, at 04:09, Mark Nottingham <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> [ I remember seeing that article somewhere other than the Guardian quite a few months ago, but forget where; anyone? ]
>
> Personally, I'm very interested, but the Web as currently designed and implemented heavily encourages centralisation, and changing it is likely harder than just starting something new.
>
> Some related thoughts here:
https://www.mnot.net/blog/2015/08/18/distributed_http

Very interesting read. Thaks for the link to Brewster Kahl's talk at
the Chaos Communications Congress which helps get into this:
https://media.ccc.de/v/camp2015-6938-locking_the_web_open_call_for_a_distributed_web

Here's a way of thinking of the centralisation problem in layers that I have
found helpful recently (I'll get to Brewsters decentralised view right after).
We have three layers:

 1) IPv4/6 Information layer (+1): any machine can talk to any machine to retrieve data using IPv4/6. It's a pure p2p layer.
 2) Web of Docuemts (+1): any document can link to any other document
   Pure p2p layer
 3) Web Applications (-1): most data driven apps are not cross domain


It is at layer 3 that currently the problem is being felt, and for many people
this may seem very weird: how can you have decentralisation at lower layers, and
not higher ones? How come bytes can flow around the internet in a peer to peer
manner but data does not? How come there are so many services that exist in any
of a number of categories that don't interoperate?

For example: OuiShare, the European Sharing Economy conference, with
collaborators around Europe put together a list of tools that their
"connectors" use:

  https://trello.com/b/qPtU1EbQ/ouishare-collaboration-tools

There are 13 categories of tools, hardly any of them really interoperate. Each
time people want to work together they need to start from scratch and find a new
tool that they all agree to work on together. This has a huge cost.

So we don't just have centralisation: we also have fragmentation.
Ie. we don't have linkability in the data world. Or rather we only have
linkability at the data layer within a single service, except for a
few cases such as RSS feeds.

  We have hyper text but not hyper data.

( well actually we are working on HyperData based apps
  - High lieve concept http://hi-project.org/
  - Social Linked Data spec: https://github.com/solid/solid-spec
)

Now what Brewster Kahl wants is something more than this. They are thinking
p2p for resources so that these can be spread around and duplicated across
servers. I don't think of this as incompatible with the current web: it just
requires a new resource discovery protocol ( something like bittorent ) and new
URLs for those resources, which could in any case map to http urls.

        If you listen to Brewster's answers  to the questions in the CCC talk it
seems he is still thinking very much of a world  of documents. But actually
what he should really want, given his examples of large centralised providers,
is a distributed replicated _data_ web.  Then the client could actually follow the
data around  and build up an interface for the user's particular needs
( http://hi-project.org/ )

Given that the semantic web itself is based  on URIs and so is protocol agnostic,
there is no problem connecting data published on http, https, onion, or other protocols.
Logically this has already been dealt with by the w3c.

More intriguing is how one could have distributed versioned data where some data is
access controlled. The data would have to be encrypted, but if one gave anyone the key,
that person could give anyone else the key too - but perhaps that's not more of a problem
than when someone copies and republishes a document that is access controlled.

So in summary:
  - the problem of centralisation/fragmentation is occuring at the data layer
  - the answer to that is using linked data
  - building replicated version data protocols
     + will make linked data even more important
     + is not incompatible with the current web architecture

Henry Story
http://co-operating.systems/

>
> Cheers,
>
>
>> On 8 Jan 2016, at 11:55 am, Melvin Carvalho <[hidden email]> wrote:
>>
>>
>>
>> On 5 January 2016 at 20:51, Henry S. Thompson <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/dec/29/irans-blogfather-facebook-instagram-and-twitter-are-killing-the-web
>>
>> This is a really interesting piece, thanks for sharing.
>>
>> The web does seem to have become more centralized in the last few years.  I dont know how much of this is architectural, and how much behavioral.
>>
>> The architectural foundations of the web as a cross origin document (and data) space, are I think, quite strong, leading to a good degree of decentralization.  I dont know why the web may be becoming more centralized, I once heard someone say "no matter how decentralized you design a system, centralization creeps in through the back door".
>>
>> My personal preference would be to see a healthy centralized and healthy decentralized element of the web competing with each other and offering greater user choice.  But we dont seem to live in that world, right now, at least.
>>
>> One factor, imho, is that there are probably orders of magnitude more people working on centralized solutions, than on decentralized.  Also decentralized solutions are fragmented, due to design decisions that get in the way of interop (tho interop is hard at the best of times).
>>
>> Im not sure what the TAG can do about this, or even how many on the TAG list still are interested in a decentralized web (tho I know TIm is).  One thing that may be valuable is guidelines to developers building decentralized solutions on how to prevent fragmentation, and how to encourage interop.  It's a difficult problem to talk about, let alone to solve!
>>
>>
>>
>> ht
>> --
>>       Henry S. Thompson, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
>>      10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB, SCOTLAND -- (44) 131 650-4440
>>                Fax: (44) 131 650-4587, e-mail: [hidden email]
>>                       URL: http://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/~ht/
>> [mail from me _always_ has a .sig like this -- mail without it is forged spam]
>>
>>
>
> --
> Mark Nottingham   https://www.mnot.net/
>
>